The Government has set a date for the abolition of the wardship system, and its replacement with a new system of assisted decision-making.
The Mental Health Commission has welcomed the announcement made by Roderic O’Gorman (Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, pictured) and Anne Rabbitte (Minister of State for Disability).
They said that the 26 April would be set as the day for the abolition of wardship, the full operation of the Decision Support Service (DSS), and the introduction of a new system of tiered decision-making supports.
In addition, the new legislation also provides for measures linked to further compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, while it will also raise the minimum target percentage of people with disabilities to be employed in the public sector – from 3% to 6%, on a phased basis, by 2025.
The announcement follows the enactment of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Act 2022, which was signed into law by the President on 17 December. This act amends 2015 legislation, and provides the legal basis for the abolition of wardship.
The Mental Health Commission said that wardship, under which a person may be declared to be ‘of unsound mind’, and incapable of manging his or her affairs, had long been recognised as “a blunt instrument”, and would now be replaced by the new graduated framework of supports aligned to a person’s need.
The DSS had been set up on a limited basis under the 2015 act. It will operate the provisions of the new system, and will be open to the public from 27 April.
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said that, from 26 April:
- The DSS will be able to process applications for new decision-support arrangements,
- The Circuit Court will be able to process applications for decision-making representative orders,
- There will be statutory provision for the making and recognition of Advance Healthcare Directives,
- Wardship will be abolished, and wards of court which currently exist in the State will have a review of their circumstances undertaken by the wardship court, and will exit wardship on a phased basis over the next three years.
Minister O’Gorman described wardship as “an archaic legal system” that had been on the statute book for far too long.
“It has denied people basic control over the decisions which affect their lives," he said.
"The new assisted decision-making system will move away from an outdated and paternalistic ‘best interests’ model and allow people far greater control over basic decisions in their own lives,” the minister stated.